We arrived at the park at 2:30 in the afternoon, thirty minutes early, before the park opened. It was very cold with pouring down rain and gusty winds. We went to guest services to pick-up the press kit, which included two park tickets with platinum meal vouchers and two Christmas ornaments. Though there were few park guests at the time, people were being let in to England and Scotland early and told that the attractions would open at 3:00. Since the carolers had not yet arrived in England and we were not interested to attend the show, “A Sesame Street Christmas”, we decided to move on to Scotland. There, we took pictures of the Christmas scenery and decorations until Ireland opened at 3:00. Wanting to get on a roller coaster, we walked through Ireland toward France to ride Griffon. Near the wildlife reserve entrance, we were met with a park attendant standing in the middle of the path, informing everyone that they could not leave Ireland until 3:30. While we were waiting, we took more pictures. At 3:30 sharp, we quickly headed for Griffon. Fur Dozy and I got on the first row of the first train on the first day of the first year of Christmas Town. After the first ride, we convinced Yoshi to get on. (He had never ridden Griffon before.)
After our rides on Griffon, we went on to see the penguin attraction, which the Busch Gardens Williamsburg website promoted as a “penguin paradise”. The park map described it as “an up-close encounter with live penguins” (that is plural). We were anxious to check it out (especially Yoshi, who LOVES penguins). Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long. While in line, we felt the walls, which were covered in sheets, and realized that the park had not removed the skulls and bones from the walls that had previously been decorated for Howl-O-Scream’s Catacombs. We were disappointed as we approached to find only one penguin and were left to stand back as a crowd of people pushed forward to catch a glimpse of it. Forum members had stated that they had seen two penguins later that day. I was expecting a nice habitat with water, real ice, and more than one penguin. I pictured them diving, sliding, swimming, ect. Instead, there was a penguin in a box, standing motionless as though he was as fake as the Styrofoam scenery surrounding him. Out of “10” I would give it a “3.”
From there, we walked through New France to reach Oktoberfest and, wouldn’t you know it, a cast member was standing at the entrance to New France, denying entry until four o’clock. Frustrated by another wait, we just stood and waited. When they finally let us in, we passed through New France to head toward Oktoberfest. Upon reaching the path leading to Darkastle in Oktoberfest, we were met, yet again, by another delay. This time, the attendant stated that we would not be allowed to enter until 4:30. We backtracked to the “North Pole” to take some more pictures. After about 15 minutes of that, we returned to wait out the final 15-minutes outside of the entrance to Oktoberfest. We were able to enter after that, and felt fortunate enough to catch the first Darkastle ride in Christmas Town 2009. Unfortunately, however, we were surprised at the end of the ride that the water had not been turned off. After exiting Darkastle, we went directly to the entrance of Festhaus Park where we got the pictures and videos of the Big Bad Wolf demolition. We walked up to the Oktoberfest/Italy bridge which was lit with festive lights, to find it closed. This prevented us from getting the close-up pictures of the Big Bad Wolf’s second drop that we had wanted. We decided to walk down to the boat dock to see what we could get a picture of form there. Sure enough, we could get fairly nice shots of it from there. We continued across the bridge to see Nessy. I have to say, Nessy looks a lot better when all of the leaves are off of the trees, since her yellow track can be seen going back into the woods into her lair.
We then took a train from Tweedside to Caribou. The train ride was nice, but without the lights, it wasn’t anything special. Also, we passed the elephant ride in Festa and noticed that it had been taken apart and the pieces where lying inside the building where it was located. If you look closely, you can see Big Bad Wolf pieces behind Festhaus Park as well. You can see the video I took of the ride here. By the time we arrived, we were quite hungry, so we went to Trapper’s, which was surrounded by a country, Christmas atmosphere. I was especially impressed with the food and the fact that they converted one of their gift shops into a heated, dining area. It was pleasant to eat without a lot of crowds and the musical entertainment in New France was quite nice. From now on, when I eat in the park, I am always getting a meal voucher. I got $25 worth of food for a $15 meal voucher. The food was good, as always.
From there we went to the Festhaus. It was packed, and they weren’t letting anyone in. To see the show we had to gain entry through the bathroom, not the classiest way in, but a way in. We were rewarded with, “Deck the Halls,” which included good singing, great dancing, and amazing decorations. It was very well done. I would rate it an “8” out of “10.”
After the show, we left the Festhaus just in time to see “O Tannenbaum”. This, by far, was my favorite show there. The lights, the music, the atmosphere- all of it was superb. This show approached Monster Stomp Revamped status, at “9” out of “10” (Monster Stomp Revamped being a “10” of “10”. You can see my video of it here.
From there, we went to see the show, “Rejoice.” I had high expectations for this show, just because it was located at the Abbey Stone Theater. I assumed wrong. The show reminded me of Griffon. The words “odd”, “out of place”, and “short” all come to mind. What there was of it was okay, I guess, but when they all left the stage, I actually turned to Yoshi and Fur Dozy and asked, “Is it really over?!?” I’m rating it as a “6” because it was just so short.
From the Abbey Stone, we went to Corkscrew Hill. There wasn’t anything special about it for Christmas, just the normal Corkscrew Hill. We then went back to Griffon. I’m not sure how many times we rode it, but it was a lot. After a while of riding Griffon over and over again, we went to the ice cream place in France to check out the special Christmas Town ice cream. Most of the special Christmas sundaes contained chocolate, which I don’t like (I’m odd like that). I ordered a strawberry cone which was, of course, delicious. We then walked back to Tweedside, planning to ride the train in a loop before leaving the park. As we passed Italy, we observed people walking beside Pompeii. Then we noticed that the Flying Machine was running. The train was much better at night and should not be missed on your list of things to do. I love how they placed lights on the train, it made it look better for those both on and off of it. We got off at Caribuo again and walked to Octerberfest. The gate at the Octerberfest/Italy bridge was now open, though it was then too dark to get the pictures we had wanted earlier of the Big Bad Wolf’s drop. We walked across the bridge to find that the Battering Ram, Flying Machine, Balloon ride, and the Mini-Flying Machine where all open. We got the last ride of the night on the Battering Ram before exiting the park.
Overall, it was a good day at a good park at a good event. I enjoyed the park much more after the sun went down. There was more to see and do, and made the park feel like a totally different place, somewhere I had never been before. There are some things that Bush could/should probably improve upon, however, it was the first day of their first attempt at creating a Christmas event. I hope they get some of it fixed for next year though.
This review was written by Swiftman who went to the park on the opening day of Christmas Town, you can see his pictures of the trip here or on the forums. You can also find him on Twitter @The_Swiftman.
This trip report/review was written by Zachary Strader (Swiftman) for the exclusive use of BGWFans.com. Any other uses must obtain specified permission from BGWFans.com and Zachary Strader prior to use.
Disclosure: Admission to the park and meal vouchers were furnished by Busch Entertainment Corporation.